Texans’ “A” Team Cancelled By Denver D

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August 14, 2005
Texans’ "A" Team Cancelled By Denver D

by Charles Spooner

While the starting units looked good in limited time, the Houston Texans and Denver Broncos gave NFL fans another example of why preseason games are necessary. In a contest marred by a combined 22 penalties, the Broncos booted the Texans 20-14 (dropping Houston to a 2-12 all-time preseason record).

The Texans offseason emphasis on defensive speed proved wise, as the Texans starting defense held Denver to one 1st down and 13 yards of total offense on their first two drives of the game. The leaner, meaner defensive front brought back memories of the inaugural 2002 campaign, when penetration by defensive linemen wasn’t a four-letter word.

In between the Bronco punts, David Carr drove the Texans 72 yards in 6 plays, highlighted by an end zone pass interference call against Denver rookie corner
Darrent Williams. Unfortunately the Texans were stymied by the Bronco goal line defense, with Domanick Davis falling short of paydirt on four consecutive runs.

The following Texan drive, with backup QB Tony Banks leading the second unit, had a happier ending. Banks found reserve TE Matt Murphy over the middle for
a 31-yard TD pass, to give Houston the early 7-0 lead. Murphy beat Denver MLB Al Wilson in man coverage, a rare feat by Texan tight ends.

The Broncos starting offense, playing into the second quarter, mounted a scoring drive culminated by QB Jake Plummer finding his TE, Stephen Alexander, for a 3
yard score. The drive was punctuated by Plummer’s ability to break containment and make plays outside the pocket.

Denver’s 2nd & 3rd team offense combined for 13 additional points, including a 92-yard catch and run to glory by rookie wideout Todd Devoe. Texans rookie free
agent Chris McKenzie pulled up with an injured hamstring while in pursuit.

NFL Europe MVP Dave Ragone re-entered the game for an injured B.J. Symons late in the 4th quarter and engineered a scoring drive. The former Berlin Thunder
star went 3-3 for 41 yards with a strike in the end zone to former TCU Horned Frog LaTarence Dunbar.

Beside the injuries to McKenzie & Symons, starting RG Zach Wiegert left the game on the Texans’ opening drive after having his left leg rolled up by a Bronco
defender. X -rays were negative, as Wiegert was determined to have a high ankle sprain. That was a relief, as the injury looked worse from the stands.

Despite the slow pace of the game caused by penalties & punts, Texans fans were entertained by frequent Jumbotron shots of rookie 1st round pick Travis
Johnson’s new "I Love the 80’s" hairdo. Texans in-house stylists/defensive linemen Seth Payne and Gary Walker were credited with the cut. Who says rookie hazing is dead?

The Oakland Raiders come into Houston next Saturday, bringing All Pro Randy Moss in for his 2nd visit to Reliant Stadium. Moss versus ex-Raider cornerback Phillip Buchanon should be engaging for a quarter or so.

What Went Right?

Run Defense The Texans defense held Bronco RBs to 21 yards on 11 carries in the 1st half. The Texans defensive front, led by vets Gary Walker and Seth Payne, were able
to get penetration into the backfield and still maintain gap responsibility for cutback runs. Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio kept Denver’s vaunted offensive line guessing by switching to a 43 front at one point.

Running Backs The Texans’ depth at RB seems to be at an all-time high as the top 4 backs gave fans something to cheer about. Despite the goal line troubles, Domanick Davis looked like his old self on the opening drive. Jonathan Wells seemed to be more aggressive into the hole than seen since his rookie preseason. Tony Hollings flashed his speed on a screen pass. And rookie Verand Morency (as in currency) ran hard, if not smart.

Punt Team Coverage Unit Texans punt coverage teams held Bronco rookie returner Darrent Williams to 10 yards in 4 returns, with one fair catch. Texan punters placed 3 punts inside Denver’s 20 yard line, thanks in part to Kevin Kaspar’s great catch and down at the one yard line off a Cody Scates boot.

What Went Wrong?

Goal Line Golden Sombrero It’s not often a team is stopped 4 times from the 1 yard line. Even rarer for a RB like Domanick Davis, who had 8 TDs (8th in the NFL) in 19 goal line carries during the 2004 season. But, that’s what happened on the Texans’ opening drive, as they experimented with DT Robaire (Don’t call me the Fridge) Smith at FB. Smith’s girth seemed to make it difficult for Davis to find a crease. Why not try a pass at least once? According to Carr, the Texans had only two plays in their goal line package: one run to the left, one to the right.

Defensive Containment Few QBs can break the pocket and make plays with his arm and legs like Jake Plummer. And Denver’s offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak takes full advantage of Plummer’s mobility with rollout plays designed to put pressure on the defense’s edges. Still, the Texans know that going into the game and Texan Outside Linebackers must make better decisions on when to force the QB inside (yes I’m talking about you, Jason Babin). Without the outside the pocket plays by Plummer & reserve RB Bradlee Van Pelt, the Texans would have shut down the Bronco offense in the 1st half.

Penalties Realizing that this was the first preseason game, penalties were on the menu. But two false starts by the backup center? That leaves a bad taste. Rookie center Drew Hodgdon, we hardly knew ya. Let’s hope that the refs the Texans employ during training camp practices bear down, because another 12 penalty game by the Texans might force a grimace from stoic Head Coach Dom Capers.

Key Play Of The Game

4th and goal from the 1, you’ve been stuffed on three straight runs, what do you do? Run once more, of course. That’s what the Texans coaching staff
thought. Too bad that Denver’s braintrust were thinking along similar lines. Robaire Smith is no Refrigerator Perry at FB. In fact, he may never reach major appliance status. Let’s hope the Texans end this experiment, and toss in a goal line fade to Andre Johnson into the playbook. And to those Texans fans who feel the need to cheer a decision to go for broke on 4th down: Be quiet!!! Is it so hard to understand that you are to keep your mouths closed and your hands clasped while your guys are on offense?

Preseason Week 1 Recap Matt Murphy speeds past Al Wilson to give the Texans an early 7-0 lead. Final Score Houston Texans 14 Denver Broncos 20 Lookin’ Good

C.C. Brown
The 6th round rookie safety was flying around the field, making 7 stops with one pass defensed. Just think how good this guy can be once he knows what he’s doing.

Oh, my eyes!

Travis Johnson’s
Mr. T-esque Mohawk

I pity the fool with this coiffure.

2005 Schedule Date Opponent Result 08.13 Denver 14-20 08.20 Oakland 19-17 08.26 at Dallas 9-21 09.01 at Tampa Bay 14-38 Regular Season 09.11 at Buffalo 7-22 09.18 Pittsburgh 7-27 09.25 Bye   10.02 at Cincinnati 10-16 10.09 Tennessee 20-34 10.16 at Seattle 10-42 10.23 Indianapolis 20-38 10.30 Cleveland 19-16 11.06 at Jacksonville 14-21 11.13 at Indianapolis 17-31 11.20 Kansas City 17-45 11.27 St. Louis 27-33 12.04 at Baltimore 15-16 12.11 at Tennessee 10-13 12.18 Arizona 30-19 12.24 Jacksonville 20-38 01.01 at San Francisco 17-20   Overall Record 2-14